In Sunday’s gospel, John the Baptist is asked several times by priests and Levites “Who are you?” After trying to dodge their question a couple of times, he says “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’…”
I would have probably hemmed and hawed at that question for a while. It is not an easy question. It sounds easy, because it iss phrased so simply: “Who are you?” It’s only three little words. But answering this question, for most of us, is the work of a lifetime.
As a teenager, I would have probably answered this question by stating my name, “Roy,” and if pressed, said “I’m the son of Connie Petitfils.” That’s about as deep as I think I would have gotten.
So I ask you, “Who are you?”
More than your name, your parents, where you live and go to school, who are you? Its not easy, huh? Guess what? It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, this is a tough question. Most adults will answer with their name and then say what they do for a living, not really answering the question. But in my experience, tough questions are good because they invite us to grow.
It is important that we pray with this question because life is always asking.
Am I a drinker? Do I smoke pot? Am I judgemental? Am I accepting? Am I generous? Am I spiritual? Am I a follower of Christ? Am I repentant? Am I someone who prays? Am I someone who gives her time and energy to help others? Am I someone that knows what she values and believes in or does that change based on who I’m hanging around? Am I God’s beloved child?
These are just a few questions that help us to probe deeper into our identity.
So just to be fair, let me answer the question. In all of my sin and my gifts, I remain God’s beloved son.
It’s taken me most of my life to believe that. Remembering that fundamental reality is why I pray. I pray so that God can name me as his son, remind me that I’m his son, and help me to understand what it means for me to be his son.
Toward the end of his life, St. Francis was known to spend entire nights in a cave praying and shouting these words “Who are you, O God? And Who am I?” Over and over again he’d pray as if they were somehow connected. Perhaps they are. But the only way you’ll know is to pray them for yourself.
On our own, we will remain a mystery to ourselves. As weird as it sounds, on our own, we’ll never know who we really are. We may be able to spout out some surface-y stuff, but nothing meaningful.
Only God can reveal to us who we are. God does this through prayer, through our good friends, our parents, through the sacraments, and through his Word in Scripture.
So, “Who are you?”